Modules cause confusion for products regulator

The UK’s product regulator is unsure whether is responsible for modules used in offsite building, it has admitted.

Defining what constitutes a product and falls under the remit of the products regulator is still an “open question” when it comes to modular construction, an official said.

Duncan Johnson, deputy director for construction products regulation at the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), made his comments at an industry event earlier this week.

“We can only regulate those products for which there’s a designated standard and that’s clearly defined,” Johnson said at a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) event this week.

But he said the OPSS needs to “know exactly what a construction product is”, which becomes more complicated when it comes to modules on a modular construction site.

“We’re certainly open to the idea that if a module is constructed in a factory, it becomes a product and it should be regulated as a product rather than as a building.

“But clearly, wherever you draw the line, there are challenges,” he admitted.

“I think this is still an open question. This is something that further views are being sought on and will be sought on, but it’s a really important dimension of any future regime.”

While the OPSS is responsible for regulating product safety, the BSR is responsible for building safety regulation.

Construction News contacted the BSR, asking if it was responsible for modular housing, but had not had a response at the time of publication.

Under the Building Safety Act, the OPSS is empowered to remove construction products from the market if they pose a safety risk.

It operates within the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).

Both the BSR and the National Regulator for Construction Products within the OPSS were created by the Building Safety Act 2022, introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Last year, a government-commissioned review by industry veteran Paul Morrell raised questions about the new regime.

The review said it was unclear how “regulatory continuity will be established in following products from manufacture to installation and use on site, given the split of responsibilities between the two new regulators”.

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